Sex and contraception

In her latest entry Josephine explains Roman Catholic thinking on sex and contraception

For most of history, few women had the chance of studying and using their education in the public sphere. In fact, for most of history, very few men had the chance of studying either. In the Western world, and elsewhere, women have the same opportunities as men. Without such opportunities, I would not be writing this now!

Yet women and men, feel the overwhelming importance of committed love and the children that are the product of this love. Totalitarian and secular governments often seek to treat women in the work-force as if they were men and as if their inherent value lay in the world of paid employment. They down-grade the importance of marriage, which is the gift of one man to one woman and one woman to one man. When you present a gift to someone, you cannot take it back! Therefore the Catholic Church defends marriage and underlines the equality of woman and man in that state.

Sex, in Christian understanding, is for ‘bonding and babies,’ just as food is for nourishment and sleep is for rest.

Because one cannot take back the gift of self that one has given to husband or wife in marrying, the Catholic Church holds that marriage cannot be dissolved. This teaching goes back to that of Christ in the gospel of Matthew, when he said that a man who ‘divorces his wife … and marries another, is guilty of adultery.’ (Mt.19) and in Mark, Ch 10, Jesus adds ‘And if a woman divorces her husband and marries another, she is guilty of adultery too.’

It is becoming increasingly evident that marriage provides the stability that human beings crave, whether adults or children but especially the latter. Emotional security is so important to children that it needs to include both parents, though many single parents are heroically successful in bringing up their children. Separation because of cruelty of one sort or another is a different matter.

‘AGAINST CONTRACEPTION? CAN YOU BE SERIOUS?

Because marriage is the place for active sexual love, marriage is the place for the gift of self to the other. Barriers are out of place. Contraceptives are essentially barriers between the self-giving of the two. That does not mean that the couple cannot decide the number of their children they would like to have, on the basis of their health, their energy, and their finances. The woman’s body has indicators that show the few hours in each cycle when she can conceive and she and her husband can choose to abstain from sex for about seven days in each month. Not easy, perhaps, but better than condoms, which, however perfect in the factory, can tear and slip in use. Better than the pill, which can produce many and varied unwanted side effects. Because of failures and difficulties with contraceptives, abortions become an acceptable back-up – abortions take female life in the womb (as well as male). With goodwill, natural fertility management, on the other hand, brings the couple closer together, each having the same responsibility for their family.

In February this year, the FPA, formerly the Family Planning Association, an organisation not known for sympathetic understanding of Roman Catholic teaching, published a report which found that natural family planning is as effective as the contraceptive pill, long seen as the benchmark of fertility control. (Daily Telegraph 21.2.07)

The condom is considered to have a failure rate in practice of about 15%. In the case of AIDS infection, that would equate to a terrible risk.

Josephine Robinson studied at Oxford before working as an actress until she married and had children. She has worked for various Christian and pro-life charities and is author three books and numerous articles.
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Vince Cable will need something snappier than a graduate tax to escape tuition fees

Perhaps he's placing his hopes in the “Anti Brexit People’s Liberation Front.” 

“We took power, and we got crushed,” Tim Farron said in what would turn out to be his final Autumn conference as Liberal Democrat leader, before hastening on to talk about Brexit and the need for a strong opposition.

A year and a snap election later, Vince Cable, the Lib Dem warhorse-turned-leader and the former Coalition business secretary, had plenty of cracks about Brexit.

He called for a second referendum – or what he dubbed a “first referendum on the facts” – and joked that he was “half prepared for a spell in a cell with Supreme Court judges, Gina Miller, Ken Clarke, and the governors of the BBC” for suggesting it".

Lib Dems, he suggested, were the “political adults” in the room, while Labour sat on the fence. Unlike Farron, however, he did not rule out the idea of working with Jeremy Corbyn, and urged "grown ups" in other parties to put aside their differences. “Jeremy – join us in the Anti Brexit People’s Liberation Front,” he said. The Lib Dems had been right on Iraq, and would be proved right on Brexit, he added. 

But unlike Farron, Cable revisited his party’s time in power.

“In government, we did a lot of good and we stopped a lot of bad,” he told conference. “Don’t let the Tories tell you that they lifted millions of low-earners out of income tax. We did… But we have paid a very high political price.”

Cable paid the price himself, when he lost his Twickenham seat in 2015, and saw his former Coalition colleague Nick Clegg turfed out of student-heavy Sheffield Hallam. However much the Lib Dems might wish it away, the tuition fees debate is here to stay, aided by some canny Labour manoeuvring, and no amount of opposition to Brexit will hide it.

“There is an elephant in the room,” the newly re-established MP for Twickenham said in his speech. “Debt – specifically student debt.” He defended the policy (he chose to vote for it in 2010, rather than abstain) for making sure universities were properly funded, but added: “Just because the system operates like a tax, we cannot escape the fact it isn’t seen as one.” He is reviewing options for the future, including a graduate tax. But students are unlikely to be cheering for a graduate tax when Labour is pledging to scrap tuition fees altogether.

There lies Cable’s challenge. Farron may have stepped down a week after the election declaring himself “torn” between religion and party, but if he had stayed, he would have had to face the fact that voters were happier to nibble Labour’s Brexit fudge (with lashings of free tuition fees), than choose a party on pure Remain principles alone.

“We are not a single-issue party…we’re not Ukip in reverse,” Cable said. “I see our future as a party of government.” In which case, the onus is on him to come up with something more inspiring than a graduate tax.

Julia Rampen is the digital news editor of the New Statesman (previously editor of The Staggers, The New Statesman's online rolling politics blog). She has also been deputy editor at Mirror Money Online and has worked as a financial journalist for several trade magazines.